In 2015, Kathie Lee Gifford was very candid about how deeply the death of her husband, former NFL star Frank Gifford, affected her. She talked at length about it with her now former co-anchor Hoda Kotb through tears on the third hour of "TODAY." She wrote a song for him and shared it with audiences. Now, she is letting us see another layer of her healing process in a new film. In "Then Came You," which Gifford says she wrote at 2 a.m. one morning, she stars as Annabelle, a widow who brings her husband Fred's ashes on a trip through Europe to visit the sites of some of their favorite movies.
But Annabelle is already smitten with her very first stop, Scotland. And as she gets to know the innkeeper of Awd's Inn, Howard Awd, played by Craig Ferguson, she learns that it's OK to start making new memories. Or, as she says in the film, the old ones will kill her.
I had the chance to speak with Gifford on a Zoom interview with a few fellow entertainment reporters on Wednesday. I asked her to share a fun new memory from filming and she had one at the ready. The actress recalled that it was right after she had finished raising the money for the film and finally got it produced, and she was on her way to their first rehearsals in Scotland. She had just touched down in Glasgow after a hellish travel experience (missing her connection at Heathrow, etc.), and she was exhausted. One of the first people she saw in the rehearsal hall was her leading man, Craig Ferguson. Besides the "big bear hug" he gave her, she says his greeting left much to be desired.
"Kathie, you know I love you, you know I love the script...but I got to tell you you got to change the ending," Gifford recalled him saying. "First thing out of his mouth!"
But he had an idea. He had an idea "that was so outlandish," Gifford said, that she thought they could never put it on screen.
"Are you out of you mind?" she said at the time. "We can't shoot that!"
But Gifford said that when she asked her director, Adriana Trigiani, about Ferguson's script change, she was on board with it because it was something that had "never been done in film before." Gifford was outnumbered and relented. I can't tell you what that shocker is, but it has to do with Fred. Believe me, it's a moment you'll remember.
Because "Then Came You" centers so much on travel adventures, I asked Gifford what her top travel destinations were - destinations that I noted will probably have to be delayed a bit thanks to COVID.
"I wanted to get back to Israel, my favorite place on the planet," Gifford replied. "You can't get into to Israel. It's madly locked down right now."
And even if the country did open to international travel, she said, she'd have to quarantine for two weeks, throwing in some of her famous self-deprecating humor.
"I don't have the kind of budget," she said. "I'm not Steven Spielberg you might have noticed."
But when borders do open up again, she's excited to shoot her next set of films in Rome, Casablanca, Nantucket, and Kenya.
“Then Came You” is out Sept. 30 and on demand Oct. 2.
You can watch my interview with Gifford below.